Saturday, December 29, 2007

Race to be next US President

With 2008 nearly upon us, the race to be the next US President is currently very open with many different scenarios emerging. The current polls seem to be all over the place, in Iowa where the caucuses take place on 3rd January followed by the first primary in New Hampshire on 8th January. I will certainly be looking at regularly and I find this site to be the best source for US politics.

The timetable this year is very truncated with a front loaded primary and caucus season, given the schedule it's highly likely that we'll probably know the nominee of each major party by the 5th February. However, if the results are inconclusive or are split the race could drag on for a number of months before being settled at the party conventions which take place in August. An unlikely scenario, but it could happen.

In both the Democrats and Republicans, the battle to be the nominee is still very open with no clear favourite having emerged..

In terms of the Democrats, I actually think Hillary Clinton will probably win the nomination though a great deal will depend on what happens in Iowa and New Hampshire. If she wins in both - she'll be the nominee barring some kind of huge turnaround. When John Kerry won Iowa and New Hampshire in 2004, he effectively clinched the nomination.

Her two main opponents are John Edwards and Barack Obama, of the two Barack Obama is the stronger and is better financed which counts for a great deal. For John Edwards, he needs to win Iowa or come a strong second, anything else and it's game over. Given how the caucus works in Iowa I think he'll probably come out on top. His main problem though is that he has a fraction of the resources available to Hilary Clinton and Barack Obama, in this race money matters!

The candidate I would like to see win is Barack Obama, I believe he is a breath of fresh air and inspires people in a way that Hillary does not. Currently he is doing very well in both Iowa which is a three way split and is now leading in New Hampshire, though the polls are within the margin of error. If he wins New Hampshire, he's in a very strong position and the South Carolina primary which precedes Super Tuesday on 5th February and will be key to whether he can maintain the momentum.

My views on Hillary is that whilst I admire her I believe she is a divider and not a unifier along with being a very polarising figure. Last year I posted on this blog my view on Hilary and I stand by this view
Nevertheless, if she does come through I hope she proves her critics including myself wrong - a great deal on her chances of success will also depend on the Republican nominee.

The race to be Republican nominee is far more unpredictable and difficult to judge. Recently Mike Huckabee, a former Governor of Arkansas and resident of Hope (the similarities with Bill Clinton end there) has come up through the polls to become a front-runner. A few months ago he was a rank outsider and was believed to have little chance. Many polls now show him leading in Iowa, though the latest polls show him falling behind Mitt Romney. His views are very much in tune with the politics of George Bush along with the Christian right - they took a long time to coalesce behind a candidate and he seems to be the one. If he was to become the candidate it would probably spell absolute disaster for the Republicans in the swing states and I'd be shocked if he was elected. However, nothing in US politics would surprise me given that they elected George Bush. Personally I think he'll fade but he could win a few primaries and caucuses along the way.

Another major candidate for the Republicans who was thought to be the favourite until recently was Mitt Romney, former governor of Massachusetts. In order to have greater appeal he has swung sharply to the right on a number of key issues including immigration and abortion (he was previously pro-choice when governor of Massachusetts a state where it would be electoral suicide to be anti-abortion). In terms of funding he is also extremely wealthy and has large resources at hand. The forthcoming contests are crucial and New Hampshire is a must-win for him given that he was governor of a neighbouring state. He also needs a respectable showing in Iowa (the latest poll now gives him a lead). Many within the US also question his religion, which is Mormon, whilst in this country religion plays a minor role, polls have shown a high negativity on his religion. I don't think he'll be the nominated, but it would not be a shock if he did come through the field.

That leaves three other candidates.

Rudy Gulliani for a long time was the favourite for the nomination. I never thought he would be the nominee when I posted last year and I still don't think he'll be the nominee. His views on many social issues are an anathema to many Republicans and he'll never appeal to a large sector of the Republican electorate. More importantly, he has targeted his campaigning on states that have primary and caucuses later including Florida on 29th January and Super Tuesday (California, Illinois, New York and many other states) on the 5th February. This is a very risky strategy - whilst Iowa and New Hampshire are very small states with relatively few delegates, they do give candidates momentum along with a huge amount of coverage. A bad performance in both those States, which looks like it’ll be the case will probably doom his campaign. This is despite him having a large amount of resources at hand.

Fred Thompson, a former senator from Tennessee briefly made an impact when he entered the race a few months ago but has since faded. This is another candidate of the right though slightly more charismatic then most of the others, he is also an actor but is unlikely to be the next Ronald Reagan.

That leaves John Mc Cain. A few months ago he was given up for dead, his campaign was low on resources (ie cash), his ratings were plummeting and he was seen as too old (he is 72). Now I think he may just be the nominee. He will not win Iowa but has a very good chance in New Hampshire where he has seen a surge in support lately. If Republicans are serious about electability, he is probably also their best choice given his centrist record and he’s a candidate not beholden to the Republican right (though he further to the right then Gulliani). I also think that he has the potential to be a unifier, whilst I would clearly like to see a Democratic victory next November, he will as a candidate appeal to the middle ground and independent voters.

Looking at the election - the Democrats have a very good chance of winning the White House in 2008 given the appalling legacy of the Republicans and George Bush. However, events can have an impact and a Republican victory should not be ruled out. I hope that Barack Obama is elected President next year as he is a symbol of change - but I also have a sense of realism and objectively Hilary will probably be the Democrat nominee. The next few months will be very interesting and no doubt I'll be posting much more about US politics throughout 2008.

Bhutto assassination and Pakistan

The recent events in Pakistan with the tragic assassination of Benazir Bhutto is troubling and has potential huge ramifications for world peace. Whatever her faults, and she had many, she was probably the best hope for Pakistan given its tumultuous history and current instability. Her death has left a huge void in the country and it will be very difficult for a figure to emerge that can bring some kind of stability to the country.

Since 911, Pakistan has been at the front line of the fight against terrorism. Given its position within this region and with it also being a nuclear power, any instability in the country could have very long-term consequences. Indeed, whilst Musharraf recent actions are regrettable, at least he recognises the issues that the country faces in the war against Al-Qaeda and similar extremists. He's certainly better then many of the alternatives - even if many of his recent actions including the sacking of supreme court justice was disgraceful.

If Pakistan was to fall into the hands of Islamic extremists; the consequences could are unimaginable - a war with India, a haven for extremists and of course possession of nuclear weapons. Any problems the west may have with Iran would pale into insignificance if Pakistan descends into chaos.

2008 will be a pivotal year for Pakistan - what happens in that country has ramifications throughout the world. Benazir Bhutto death is a tragedy for Pakistan and dealing with its aftermath will be a challenge given the politics of the region.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Former Sutton Tory leader disqualified by The Standards Board

The former Tory leader of Sutton Tories(neighbouring borough to Merton), Eleanor Pinfold, was yesterday disqualified for a year by the Standards Board for breaching the code of conduct. Judging by the report of the case, it's quite clear that a very serious breach of the code of conduct had taken place. The result was not surprising given that she described the planning department as 'corrupt' and the police of 'political bias'. For a councillor to be disqualified is also extremely rare, indeed very few cases reported even reach a hearing. She does have the right to appeal against the decision, but the case against her does sound pretty overwhelming.

I enclose the Sutton Guardian article.

Cheam councillor sacked for brash emails
By Lisa Williams

Sacked: Miss Pinfold
A Cheam councillor has been disqualified for a year after being found guilty of breaching the councillors' code of conduct.

Eleanor Pinfold was stripped of her title today after a councillors' watchdog found she had used brash and offensive language when communicating with council officers and Sutton Police.

She was also found to have brought the council into disrepute by claiming its planning department was corrupt.

The panel ruled that these actions put her in breach of the code which she had agreed to abide with when she was elected councillor in 2002 and 2006.

Miss Pinfold, a practicing solicitor, did not turn up for the adjudication panel hearing at the Aerodrome Hotel in Croydon today but sent in written submissions in which she defended herself.

The panel heard how in November 2005 Miss Pinfold had upset Superintendent Warren Shadbolt by addressing him in an email as Shadbolt'.

Supt Shadbolt made a complaint about her after she had also accused him of being politically biased towards the Liberal Democrats and of skewing crime figures.

In an email to him she had written: "So far as I'm concerned you are a Lib Dem who does not really want to deal with the Conservative opposition but you go through the motions of being nice.'"

A catalogue of similar complaints was made about Miss Pinfold from 2004 to 2006 while she was leader of the Conservative party at the council.

They were investigated by the Standards Board and heard in front of a panel today.

Miss Pinfold pleaded justification for her actions but this was refused by the panel.

A by-election for her position as a councillor for Cheam ward is expected to be held in March next year.

5:45pm Thursday 20th December 2007

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Nick Clegg elected Lib Dem leader

The election of Nick Clegg as a Lib Dem leader is not a great surprise - though the margin of victory was very slim and probably reflected the poor campaign of Nick Clegg compared to Chris Humhe. From someone who thought he would walk it, the narrowness of his success shows that there was less then overwhelming enthusiasm for Clegg. The significant drop in turnout from the leadership election of last year may also show a general air of apathy within the party.

A few months ago, I generally thought that Clegg would improve the position of the Lib Dems, now I'm not so sure and his generally uninspiring campaign has certainly not boosted him as a politician. The real question now is what direction the Liberals go and the signs are is that Clegg will move them to the right though in a party with so many different tasks this will be no easy task.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Andrew Pelling to quit at next election

After weeks of speculation, Andrew Pelling MP for Croydon Central has decided to retire at the next election. After all the controversies of recent months he's had enough and after one term in Parliament he'll be retiring. The constituency of Croydon Central is close to Mitcham and Morden and just over week ago a team of us went over to help the Labour candidate Gerry Ryan. We received a very positive response on the doorsteps and support for Labour was holding up in the area. I've know Gerry for a number of years and know he'll make a first-class MP for Croydon Central if elected and is a formidable campaigner. The seat is also now a notional Labour seat on the new boundaries.

In terms of Tory candidates, it will be interesting to see whether Merton Tory Cabinet member and A list member Tariq Ahmad puts his hat in the ring given that he was candidate in the neighbouring seat of Croydon North at the last election. The seat is also a lot closer then many of the other seats he has sought selection for in the past. If selected, he'll have his work cut winning against Gerry who'll be a tough opponent and has deep roots in Croydon. With most constituencies now having selected it will also have its fair share of Tory candidates putting their hat in the ring and competition will be intense for this nomination.